at least 18 dead after two refugee boats crash off greece
Greece – One boat sank off the island of Lesbos due to strong winds. There were 40 people on board, all women. By Thursday morning, 16 of them had been found dead, the Greek Coast Guard said. At least 18 people seeking a new life in Europe have crossed the Mediterranean, Greek officials say, and have died in two unrelated boating accidents.
Nine women were reportedly rescued, while another 15 women were searched in boats and helicopters. Meanwhile, a sailboat carrying 95 refugees and migrants crashed into a rocky cliff amid strong winds off the island of Kythira late Wednesday evening. Rescuers said 80 people were rescued, but by Thursday morning two were found dead.
Videos circulating online show the boat’s occupants frantically trying to climb the cliff after the crash.
“We could see the boat smashing against the rocks and people climbing up those rocks to try and save themselves. It was an unbelievable sight,” Martha Stathaki, a local, told The Associated Press. “All the residents here went down to the harbor to try and help.” Firefighters lowered ropes to help the refugees climb the rocks. Navy divers are expected to join the effort later on Thursday.
Local officials said the school in the area would be repurposed as a shelter for the rescued.
Greece was at the forefront of the European crisis in 2015 and 2016 when a million refugees arrived fleeing war and poverty from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, mostly via Turkey. Since then, the number of incoming refugees has fallen sharply, but desperate people are still trying to enter the country by sea through its islands.
The Coast Guard says it rescued about 1,500 people in the first eight months of the year, compared to less than 600 last year. In December, at least 30 people were killed when three separate refugee boats sank in the Aegean Sea. Precise counts are difficult to maintain, as some bodies were never found or reached shore after several weeks.